Who doesn’t like a new story? Particularly one with a snarky Welsh lad and a slightly confused Irish fey? Here’s The Faery Reel ready to be (hopefully) enjoyed. 🙂
Faeries don’t exist, right?
That’s what Osian tells himself. So what if the stranger in the pub, the one that glows in the darkened room, has a beauty that is otherworldly. And that the man is watching him with eyes that promise trouble. So what if the music that drifts across the moor sounds like nothing he’s ever heard. So what if it’s the night of the summer solstice, the night when the veil between the human world and the faery world is whisper thin.
Osian is not a believer. Not until he is kidnapped by Conall and taken to the world of the fey. In the Otherworld, Osian is offered something he’s never had: the love of another man. But this love comes at the cruelest price. For in order to stay with Conall, Osian must give up his home, his friends, and his family.
But there is a way out—if he chooses. It involves letting himself go, allowing himself to trust Conall, and finding the true meaning of his name.
Can Osian trust Conall enough to risk it all? It’s a dangerous game he plays, but the prize—love—may be worth the risk of losing it all.
And an except!
“So…you didn’t do too badly, Osian.”
I glanced at Jo. Or, rather, let me correct that, I glared at her. For her part, she just laughed and shook her head. We were on our way back to the B&B where we had holed up, just beyond the outskirts of the village. It had taken all my persuasion skills, but I had finally convinced Jo that sleep was what we both needed. I don’t know about her, but my fingers were so sore even under the thickened calluses from countless years of playing that my left hand just wanted to fall off from the pain. And my right elbow wasn’t feeling much better. All I wanted was a warm bed and some pleasant chattering from me mate here. This Irish jig crap was just not my thing and I was never going to get it, but would Jo just let it go? Defeat, after all, is a concept Americans just don’t get.
“Y’know, if you just stop being inhibited it’ll come.”
Inwardly I moaned, and hitched up my violin case as it slipped down my shoulder a bit. Rolling my eyes at her, I said, “I don’t wanna, I’m a violinist.”
“So? And what were all those players back at the session?” Even in the dark of the street I could see her grinning.
“Fiddlers. Big difference.” I walked up the street a bit faster.
“Osian! You are such a snob!” Despite her words, Jo’s voice had a teasing note about it.
“I am not a snob, I am a classically trained violinist, end of. Those were nice people in the pub, and for what they play, they’re very good at it, But the fact remains that they are fiddle players, not violinists. Put a Vivaldi or a Bach before them and they wouldn’t have a clue how to play it properly.”
“If the truth hurts…”
Jo just shook her head. “Come on, let’s get back to the B&B. You said you were tired?”
I nodded. “And hungry. Wonder if all that chocolate we bought is still around?”
“Should be, I didn’t eat it.” She caught up to me as we walked.
The B&B was just outside the village. Every pub we passed was positively spilling over with fiddle players and other such riff-raff, all visitors to the festival that was held every year in the sleepy Donegal village. I had to all but drag her as we went past a few, suffering through protests of “but that’s my favourite song!” or “wait, I know the lead player!” or “but I’m thirsty!” Thankfully I was taller than Jo. Not by a lot (okay, by maybe a couple of inches or so…and she was all of 5’3”) but enough to matter, as in enough to haul her arse away from all the music candy and get to bed. Once we got away from the main street Jo calmed down and walked like a good girl, her long ponytail bouncing behind her.
The light of the last house on the lane that led into the moors was behind usas we set off for the B&B. I didn’t mind the wind that had picked up, or the occasional stumble with only moonlight to guide my feet. In my mind’s eye was an image of a nice warm bed that didn’t smell of Guinness and wasn’t going to be full of mad fiddle players and (God help me) off-the-beat bodhran players.
What’s the joke about how do you play a bodhran? With a penknife? I’d like to amend that to forget the fucking drum, beat the idiot playing it until he can’t move a fucking pinkie. God, what a horrid instrument. I could even still hear the bastard thing. Gritting my teeth, I walked on.
I stopped, noticing for the first time that Jo wasn’t still walking alongside me. Looking over my shoulder, I saw her stock still, her head cocked. “What? You okay?” She didn’t look okay. Her face was as pale as a ghost’s.
“C-can you hear that?”
Frowning slightly, I stopped my fidgeting and listened. The drums. They weren’t in my overtaxed head, they were for real. “So some bodhran player has realised he is the most hated man in a session and has come out here in the bloody moors to lament that fact? Is that what you’re talking about?” Despite my confident words, I stepped back a few paces until I was by her side. I couldn’t help but note that the playing came, not from the village where you’d expect it, but from somewhere in the moors. If it was some idiot guy about I wasn’t about to leave Jo on her own. And God knew bodhran players were, by and large, idiots.
Silencing the monologue in my head, I listened to the drumming for a moment. And then for a moment longer when I realised it wasn’t a bodhran. For a moment the wind stilled and the sound floated across the moors in a way that made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Not really sure why, but there was something about it that creeped me out. Obviously Jo as well, by the way her nails were digging into my arm.
“That burial mound thingy is close by.” Jo’s voice shook as she spoke.
“Oh, come on, what are you expecting? Rabid drumming zombies?”
“Well, what about y’know…what they say comes out of those things?” The colour of her voice took on a more indignant tone than afraid.
“What, faery mounds? Jo, stop being so American!” She looked like she was going to punch me. I gave her hand a quick squeeze, trying to reassure her. “That thing is just a burial mound, nothing more. And besides there’s one close to where my parents live and you don’t get creeped out by that one.”
“Yeah, but I’ve never been to your folks’ place on the Solstice.”
“The summer solstice. The one that’s tonight. Y’know, the longest day of the year and all that.”
“Jo, don’t start talking about faeries and all that shit. Because that’s all it is, shit. This is the 21st Century!” I firmly steered her towards the B&B. “Come on, we’ve got chocolate to eat and warm beds to cwtch up in.”
The drummer sounded far away, anyway. So what if he wasn’t playing a stereotypical Irish drum. He was probably tucked in some lonely little cottage deep in the moors and too shy to come out to the festival. And if he was too shy for that, he certainly was too shy to pick up some ax or butcher knife and chase us all over the place, right? More likely he’d just beat us with his bloody drum if he caught us, anyway. Even so, I set off once again at a quick pace. It’d only take about five minutes to get to the B&B, if we just walked fast. I gripped her hand tightly, and shifted to grasp her elbow when she couldn’t keep the pace up.
“Come on Jo, let me have your violin case. We can go faster that way.” I don’t know why but I just felt the urge to move, like we were being watched or something. The logical part of my brain put it down to too many horror films. My feet and hands—and my heart—choose to ignore that.
Not one to protest—particularly if there was a mad drummer out there—Jo dropped the case off her shoulder and, in the same motion, I took it and slung it over my free shoulder. God, but her case was heavy, no wonder she couldn’t keep up.As much as I would have loved to grumble about the weight, I wisely chose to keep my mouth shut, just moaning a bit as I settled it into a comfortable crook of my shoulder bone. Once again we set off, at a brisker pace this time. The steady beat of the drummer helped us keep a pace, in its 4/4 rhythm. For a musical stalker he was a helpful chap, he was.
“Osian…” Jo tugged on my arm.
“What? We really need to keep walking y’know.” Not really stopping, I managed to drag her a few feet before she tugged harder on my arm.
“No, stop for a minute, Osian. Do you hear that?”
I stared at her for a moment. How could she be so stupid? The B&B was just up the road, I could make out the lights coming from it. If the silly girl would only shut up and walk, we could get there, have a laugh about all this, agree that we watch far too many horror films and enjoy that chocolate. But then…then…
Under the steady drumbeat (that hadn’t gotten any fainter, by the way) there was an eerie sound, almost like—and yeah I know this is going to sound stupid—but almost like the wind was playing the uilleann pipes. It was an unreal sound, so faint but so prominent. And the tune—if it could be called that—had no trace of any 4/4 or 6/8 or any other ‘Irish’ beat anymore. I turned wide eyes back to Jo.
She looked like I felt. Breathless, her face a white mask in the dark, her hand on my arm trembled as though she were freezing. I could see her chest rising and falling in a building hyperventilation attack under the dark green of her jumper. It was obvious even in the dark. Something had to be done, and done fast.
I couldn’t ditch the violins. Even as fearful as I was that we were about to be set upon by rabid zombie faeries, I wasn’t about to just dump them and run. Grasping Jo’s hand tightly in mine, I whispered, “On the count of three I want you to run, and run as fast as you can. The B&B is just up ahead, run to those lights there.” I nodded over her shoulder.
“Right…right, okay.” She gritted her teeth.
“There’s my brave girl.” I squeezed her hand. “Now…one…two…three!”
Usain Bolt couldn’t have done any better, if you ask me. Like the wind, she tore down the road, me at her heels. The steady thud of our shoes hitting the pavement drowned out the music. We ran like the scariest thing Stephen King could dream up was on our heels. The lights of the B&B were just ahead, getting brighter with each stride. We were going to make it, it was going to be okay.
And, like that, Jo slammed to a stop. Being weighted down, I couldn’t stop so easily and I ploughed into her. We fell in a tangle of limbs and violin cases, hitting the overgrown hedge alongside the country road.
“What the fuck? Why’d you do that?” Sitting up, I rubbed the top of my head—the part that had hit the hedge first—and glared at her for the umpteenth time tonight.
Not stopping to explain herself, Jo grabbed me by the shoulders and all but threw us both belly down into the hedge. Before I could question what the fuck she was doing, she clamped a hand over my mouth.
“Shh! Look!” She pointed her finger to the lights of the B&B.
The moving lights.
It wasn’t the B&B.
Blinking to make sure I was seeing what I was seeing, I squinted and looked at it, at them, all of them. What I had taken for the windows of the B&B were flickering torches held in the hands of a row—a very long row—of people, if that’s what you could call them. If people were inhumanly tall and shone from within almost brighter than the torches they held, then they were human. Being that no human could do that or look like that, I could only say they were—
“The Sídhe ...d’you know what were seeing?” Jo’s voice was a harsh whisper in my ear.
“I was going to say y Twlyth Teg, but y’know, if you want to go with the Sídhe then who am I to complain—”
“Shut up! Do you want them to hear you?” Once again, she clamped her hand over my mouth.
We both startled and stared at one another for a painful moment.
“Did you say that?” I whispered.
We looked up.